Well this past week I've encountered a completely new challenge or annoyance to game development, besides designing, building, promoting and marketing a game. The attack of the patent trolls...
Last Friday I discovered a legal packet from one Treehouse Avatar Technologies saying I was in violation of their patents and threatening litigation if I didn't submit to licensing terms. The patent itself is one of those patents that should never have been issued, but well, we've got a fucked up patent system. More or less is patents the storing of game character information in a database and displaying it in a user interface over a network.
Treehouse also made waves by filing a lawsuit against Turbine the makers of the Lord of the Rings Online over this patent back in the fall and I can only assume is doing the same with any developer/publisher in the MMO industry.
What is a head scratcher is how I'm even on their radar given my size. My only guess they are trying to shakedown some small game developers and intimidate them into licensing or settlement to rack up a few easy wins to fund going after the big guys.
In the past two days I've heard from at least three other small game developers that have received the same threat of litigation from Treehouse. Pretty disgusted by the whole thing.
I went public with the whole thing in hopes that other small game developers who might be intimidated by the letter and just roll over to their bullshit demands will come forward.
James Fudge, the editor of GamePolitics and part of the ECA is trying to identify other developers that have received these threats. If you have you can contact him at james(at)theeca(dot)com